Saturday, March 31, 2007

Newest Insights

I posted not too long ago about how thinking about myself in Myers-Briggs terms has provided helpful new ways for me to gain insight into my current life challenges. I recommend this to others as well.

Part of what is valuable about this approach is not only is it helpful for oneself, but it provides an important way to understand the ways that people can be very different from each other, without casting these differences in better-worse terms. It is so easy to regard those who are different from us as "wrong" or even morally inferior. While I believe that there are times when people can be wrong about something, or make moral mistakes, I also believe that we moralize difference too much. Most human difference is not morally significant. What I mean is that most of the ways that we are different are not morally-rankable differences.

So, I have continued to ponder the question of whether I am really INFP or INFJ. What puzzled me was (as I indicated in a comment to the previous posting) that I learned that my communication style ("informing" rather than "directive") seemed to indicate that I was INFP, but other ways of thinking about the difference suggested that I am more INFJ. In particular, I regard my dominant cognitive style as introverted-Intuition, and my secondary style as extraverted-Feeling -- which indicates INFJ, according to this helpful website.

I shared my confusion with a good friend, who immediately had an answer! She said, "Oh, it's obvious why you're confused! It's because you are INFP in relation to people, and INFJ in terms of how you process information and organize your work."

"Yes!" I exclaimed. "That explains everything!"

Well, maybe not literally everything.

But it does explain why, even though I am capable of being a very clear and well-organized thinker, and capable of making quick and firm judgments, all of this totally does not apply to how I am in relation to people. I don't like to judge people. I don't like to try to control their behavior. With regard to people, I very strongly tune into their emotional states and orient myself towards being supportive of them.

And it explains why I am especially conflicted about grading (and other forms of evaluation of people). On the one hand, my INFJ side is fully capable of providing lots of detailed critical feedback. But because my students are people I know and care about, and I am especially sensitive to the emotional impact of grading and feedback, my INFP side makes it really hard for me to be as critical as my INFJ self says I should be.

And this also explains why I am finding the challenges I face right now so painfully challenging. In working with others on complex projects, I have to push them to get tasks done on time. But this is agonizing for me. My INFJ self is keenly aware of the way the process should go; but in relating to the other people involved, my INFP takes charge, and, using "informing" communication, I try to display the process to others in hopes that they themselves are self-motivated enough to follow through in the ways that the process clearly indicates they should! But, not hearing clearly directive language from me, they fail to respond. Process stalls. I feel the pressure. Because in my INFJ nature my "F" is extraverted instead of introverted, I want to protect others from the anguish I feel, and so I take too much on myself to keep things going...

Woe is me. But at least in understanding all of this better, I realize what I have to do differently: communicate more directively. This is hard for me, but knowing that it comes naturally to other people gives me comfort. Being directive is not in itself a bad way to be. Sometimes it is necessary!

But it is still hard for me.

Meanwhile, Johan Maurer's most recent posting is very helpful to me! These Ten Commandments of Management are just what I need right now!


  1. A friend of mine who knows the psychological literature much better than I do summarized for me what a J is. A J, she said, is somebody who doesn't have trouble making decisions--right or wrong you make your decision and move on. Having feelings for other people might make it hard sometimes to act on these decisions but a true J will make them without waffling. Don't feel bad about being a J. You are in a position that requires decisions.

  2. Yes, and we are doing a job search. (Need I say more?)